|Image Source: Pitt Rivers Museum|
Like so many previous postings today’s blog post was actually inspired by real life events (which are discussed in another blog post). These events reminded me of a scarcely discussed area of anthropological inquiry that is very familiar to everyone but hardly critically assessed. This is the field of ethnomusicology, which will be further discussed in regards to what it is, how it provides greater insights into what it means to be human, and what specifically can be done in regards to applied anthropological undertakings.
Ethnomusicology is the study of various musical styles and genres and their social and cultural contexts, expanding from just the study of the form of music to also understanding the processes of creating, performing, circulating, and receiving music based on one’s gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Ethnomusicology draws upon a variety of disciplines, including music, anthropology, psychology, folklore, history, and identity studies. Each of these areas provides greater insights into the psycho-social aspects of study that ethnomusicologists seek to answer, such as how specific musical styles came from specific groups, the creation or taboo of specific musical styles, the messages carried by various musical forms, the relationship between economics, gender, age, religion, etc. with musical genres, and more. Ultimately, ethnomusicologists study the form and function of music, seeking to understand how music is created and why.
To answer these questions ethnomusicologists employ a variety of ethnographic field methods, including participant observation, interviews, and recording performances. Historical research to identify and understand music throughout time and place is also regularly used. Through these methods a variety of different genres, from rock to tube and throat singing, and styles, including Angolan kuduro techno to Guinean praise poetry, have been recorded, studied, and as applicable preserved.
Ethnomusicologists find work through a variety of different avenues, including research, education, and public engagement. While many ethnomusicologists work as music educators or researchers in primary, secondary, and higher education institutions many are finding work outside of academia. They work in museums and archives with current or new collections; arts coalitions to elevate the status of musical traditions; media companies in securing new artists, particularly indigenous musical artists; as lobbyists to secure greater funding of music programs through educational and recreational agencies; and more. Ultimately, the possibilities are endless for individuals interested in music and anthropology, allowing for flexibility and the ability to pursue one’s musical interests further and to be paid to do it.
The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. What is ethnomusicology? 2012. Electronic. 26 September 2019.
Society for Ethnomusicology. About Ethnomusicology . 2016. Electronic. 26 September 2019.
UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. What is Ethnomusicology? 2019. Electronic. 26 September 2019.
University of Washington School of Music. Ethnomusicology. 2019. Electronic. 26 September 2019.